Marine and Coastal Law: Cases and Materials

By Dennis W. Nixon | Go to book overview
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Chapter 9

Foremost Insurance Co. v. Richardson, 457 U.S. 668 (1982)
JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.The issue presented in this case is whether the collision of two pleasure boats on navigable waters falls within the admiralty jurisdiction of the federal courts. We granted certiorari to resolve the confusion in the lower courts respecting the impact of Executive Jet Aviation, Inc. v. City of Cleveland, 409 U.S. 249 ( 1972) ( Executive Jet), on traditional rules for determining federal admiralty jurisdiction. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that an accident between two vessels in navigable waters bears a sufficient relationship to traditional maritime activity to fall within federal admiralty jurisdiction. We affirm.
Two pleasure boats collided on the Amite River in Louisiana, resulting in the death of Clyde Richardson. The wife and children of the decedent brought this action in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, alleging inter alia that petitioner Shirley Eliser had negligently operated the boat that collided with the vessel occupied by the decedent. Respondents also named petitioner Foremost Insurance Company, Eliser's insurer, as a defendant. Jurisdiction was claimed under 28 U.S. Code, sec. 1333(1), which gives federal district courts exclusive jurisdiction over "[a]ny civil case of admiralty or maritime jurisdiction." Petitioners moved to dismiss, arguing that the complaint did not state a cause of action within the admiralty or maritime jurisdiction of the District Court.In ruling on petitioners' motion, the District Court found the following facts to be undisputed:
(1) One boat was used for pleasure boating, such as boat riding and water skiing, and at the time of the accident the boat was actually pulling a skier on a zip sled;
(2) The other boat was used exclusively for pleasure fishing and was described as a bass boat;
(3) Neither boat had ever been used in any "commercial maritime activity" before the accident;
(4) At the time of the accident neither boat was in


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